IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Michigan Senate Moves to End State Use of Text Encryption App

The Michigan Senate gave approval Tuesday to a bill that would ban the use on state-issued phones of text messaging encryption apps that can be used to evade the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

SHUTTERSTOCK_MICHIGAN_CAPITOL
(TNS) — The Michigan Senate gave approval Tuesday to a bill that would ban the use on state-issued phones of text messaging encryption apps that can be used to evade the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

The Senate approved House Bill 4778 in a 35-0 vote. A version of the bill earlier passed the state House with unanimous support. Because the wording of the bill was changed in the Senate, it must now return to the House for concurrence before it is sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her signature.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Johnson, R- Wayland, told a Senate committee in September he saw the need for the bill after reading a series of articles in the Free Press about the use of Signal by top officials at the Michigan State Police.

Signal is an "end-to-end" encryption app, meaning it bypasses the state server and the company that provides the app keeps no record of the text messages sent. Once deleted, text messages sent using Signal are essentially gone without a trace — evading both the Michigan Freedom of Information Act and legal discovery.

"That's a problem," said Johnson, who is chairman of the House Oversight Committee. "It deletes the whole purpose of FOIA if you can permanently delete something."

The head of the MSP, Col. Joseph Gasper, in February told officers to remove the app from their phones.

The bill the Senate passed Tuesday would extend the ban to all state agencies.

The ban would not apply to state lawmakers or their staff, since the Legislature is exempt from FOIA. It would also not apply to Whitmer or her staff, since the governor's office is also exempt.

© 2021 www.freep.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Special Projects
Sponsored Articles